Updated: December 14, 2017 8:35:21 pm
The mood in the BJP camp on Thursday was of jubilation after exit polls predicted the saffron party would return to Himachal Pradesh and get more than 50 seats. The hill state has elected alternate Congress and BJP governments since 1985.
BJP chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal was given a rousing welcome by candidates and party workers who had assembled in Bilaspur for a day-long meeting to chart a roadmap for the future. As news channels tumbled out exit poll results, BJP passed a resolution thanking the people of the state for the overwhelming mandate.
“Himachal Pradesh ki janta ne dil khol ke vote diye. We had set a target of 50-plus seats and I am confident we will be achieving that goal and may exceed it too,” Dhumal said. The 74-year-old leader said the exit poll results were much on expected lines and not a surprise for the BJP. “The exit polls are much on expected lines, both in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. The elections will mark the end of mafia raj in the state. The BJP will provide a corruption-free and accountable government that will be sensitive to the people’s plights,” Dhumal said.
In 2012, the Congress had won 36 seats, while BJP got 26. However, much water has flowed under the bridge since then, with Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh battling corruption cases and anti-incumbency.
The meeting on Thursday was attended by all the 68 candidates and top leaders, including national general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal and state BJP president Satpal Satti. Reacting to the exit polls, Satti said, “We have thanked the people, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and national president Amit Shah for extending massive support to the state unit in the election campaign.”
The Congress, on the other hand, has taken the exit poll results with a pinch of salt. “Exit polls are not exact polls. We will wait until the final counting numbers on December 18. The Congress is certainly in a comfortable position to get a majority,” PCC chief Sukhwinder Sukhu said. Sukhu, however, highlighted the fact that Congress did not have the resources that BJP had at their disposal during campaigning. “Our campaign was very well organised though it lacked in resources unlike that of the BJP. The BJP pumped in money and manpower,” the PCC president said.
Sukhu, however, said the exit poll numbers must have shocked the BJP. “The exit poll numbers must have shocked them (BJP) too. They were not expecting this perhaps,” he said.
Initially, the BJP had not declared its chief ministerial candidate, but when Amit Shah announced the name of Dhumal on October 31, their chances improved and helped counter the Congress charge of “bin dulhe ki baarat”.
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